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Department of Education
Rod Paige

Office for Civil Rights
Kenneth L. Marcus
Delegated the Authority of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

February 2004

This publication is in the public domain. Authorization to reproduce it in whole or in part is granted. Citation must be made to: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Achieving Diversity: Race-Neutral Alternatives in American Education, Washington, D.C., 2004.

To order copies of this publication,

write to: ED Pubs, Education Publications Center, U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398;

of fax your request to: 1-301-470-1244

or email your request to:;

or call in your request toll-free: 1-877-433-7827 (1-877-4-ED-PUBS). If 877 services is not yet available in your area, call 1-800-872-5327 (1-800-USA-LEARN). Those who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a teletypewriter (TTY), should call 1-800-437-0833.

or order online at:

This publication is also available on the Department's Web site at Any updates to this publication will be available at this Web site.

On request, this publication is also available in alternate formats, such as Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette. For more information, please contact the Department's Alternate Format Center at 1-202-260-9895 or 1-202-205-8113.

The data included in this document was compiled from a variety of sources, including third- party data sources external to the Department. The third-party data sources include, for example, interviews with school and university officials, reports supplied by schools and universities, reports of other federal agencies, state data reports, published research and other "outside" sources. These sources are cited throughout the report. The Department did not independently verify the accuracy of the data derived from third-party sources.

In addition to statistical data derived from third-party sources, this document also includes references to the statements, views, or opinions of third parties. The views expressed therein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Department and no official endorsement by the Department is or should be inferred.


U.S. Department of Education Seal




February 2004

Leaders of the Education Community,

The diversity question in America now is not "Whether?" but "How?" The Supreme Court's decisions in the Michigan affirmative action litigation affirm that our shared commitment to diversity is both compelling and just when pursued within lawful parameters. In light of these decisions, President George W. Bush has challenged the education community to develop innovative ways to achieve diversity in our schools without falling back upon illegal quotas. Most educational leaders, particularly at the postsecondary level, agree with the importance of this goal. The question before us, then, is not whether we should seek more diverse, inclusive academic communities, but how we can do so while meeting the highest academic and legal standards.

The Department is committed to working with educational leaders to strengthen the diversity of our academic communities, presenting a wide variety of race-neutral approaches. In March 2003, the Office for Civil Rights released a report entitled Race-Neutral Alternatives in Postsecondary Education: Innovative Approaches to Diversity, which provided a catalogue of race-neutral options available to educational institutions. The March 2003 report divided these approaches into two categories, "developmental" and "admissions" approaches and emphasized connections between secondary and postsecondary issues. In April 2003, the Department held a conference for over 80 of our country's postsecondary educational leaders in Miami, Florida, to foster innovative thinking about race-neutral means to achieve diversity in educational institutions. Leaders from the University of Texas, the University of Florida, the University of California system and other institutions spoke about the initial positive results from these programs. Panel discussions provided valuable insight into creating an educational climate for effective use of race-neutral alternatives. Since those early efforts, we have been asked to supplement our initial report with additional information on these programs, as well as new information regarding graduate and professional programs, private institutions and K-12 schools. This new report, which revises and expands the March 2003 report, is intended to satisfy those requests.

This report, like the Department's previous efforts, has two primary goals. First, we hope to provide institutions with a "toolbox" containing an array of workable race-neutral alternatives. The goal here is not to tell people what they cannot do or where the court-imposed limitations on racial or ethnic considerations may fall. Rather, we hope to highlight several approaches that appear, from early indications, to be promising. This report is all about finding positive, constructive methods for achieving and maintaining diversity. Second, we hope to demonstrate that the range of options available to all educational institutions is much broader than people typically assume. Educational institutions are using a wide variety of approaches such as class-rank plans, socioeconomic preferences and recruitment and outreach plans to create a diverse student body. Moreover, all of these admissions plans put together represent only one small subset of the available alternatives. The most aggressive plans aim at developing a diverse applicant pool containing excellent candidates of all backgrounds who are equipped, by strong elementary and secondary preparation, not only to apply successfully to postsecondary institutions, but also to succeed. Our hope is to highlight these developmental approaches and to put the range of admissions approaches in a broader context. We hope that this publication will help foster innovative thinking in the use of race-neutral means to produce diversity in institutions across the nation.


Kenneth L. Marcus
Delegated the Authority of the
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education


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